Saturday, November 28, 2015

Paris attacks: are we going to learn any lessons?

I watched with dismay and utter shock news about brutal attack on Paris by terrorists. I am not going to bother by mentioning the names of organizations or terrorists who carried these attacks according to me they don't deserve that mention. I don't even call them inhuman because only humans are capable of doing something as gruesome like this animal generally don't kill for no reason but humans do it on regular basis. These violent groups only know how to kill people and spread violence, this is their only motive, they take shelter of some religion or ideology but their ultimate goal is to spread hatred and violence. It is true that concept of religion has some inherent weaknesses which makes it a very easy and attractive tool for fanatics. They try to use it to spread fanaticism, it is very easy to incite people to do violent things using religious emotions, we are witnessing it prominently in name of Islam today and have seen it happening with many other religions in past. But what is the solution? Why so many people get attracted to such fanatic groups who just want to spread hatred and violence? Why people are willing to kill innocents just because they follow some different faith, or belong to some other group or eat some different food or worship some different god or dare to break some age old social or religious norms? Why they do this?

Actually I this question comes to my mind every time I read news about some terrorist attack or some mob violence or some communal riot or other violent incidents where someone is attacked without any fault. I also wonder what is the ultimate aim of all this violence? To spread terror? Definitely this has to be their major goal, because for sure they are not spreading any religion or delivering any so called divine message from any book by killing innocents, but to some extent they are successful in spreading terror temporarily. But this also doesn't last long, we humans have capacity to overcome our fears and accept the challenge and there are ample examples from recent past where we did it. New York and US stood firm and strong after devastating 9/11 attacks, Mumbai and India didn't budge after terrorists attacked innocents in Mumbai and I am sure Paris will also come back to normal very soon. But still one can not ignore loss of precious lives of innocents during all these attacks and I am including attacks on innocents during military operations carried out as response to these terrorist attacks also in this. Loss of every innocent life is condemnable and we should regret about it. We can not be selective in our outrage otherwise we will look total hypocrite who care more about some people more than others. Is there any solution to end this violence? Who is funding all these terrorists? From where they get all these sophisticated deadly weapons and vast amount of money? How come arms and weapon industry is so powerful that no country or government can stop sale of these weapons to such dangerous terrorist outfits? How come so powerful countries also fail to control these terrorist groups? Why these superpowers create or support one terrorist group to fight another terrorist organization even after knowing that former will replace the later in coming future and create same problem? How long they are going to play this game of good terrorist organization and bad terrorist organization? We can go on asking so many questions like these but I don't think any government or agency will bother to answer any of these questions. Some of us might offer very logical sounding explanations blaming some country or religion depending on where we live and which religion we belong. But all this blame game and ugly drama of politics, religion and money is going on for decades without any result. The end result is innocents are murdered every now and then either on planes, in music concerts, in restaurants, on roads, on trains stations or in their homes. I don't think we common people can do much about it. Religion, politics, business, etc. are too big and powerful entities which are controlling entire humanity for ages and all these violent incidents are byproducts of something going wrong with one or more than one of these entities.

Terrorism is a tool used by various organizations to take control of human civilizations, it is relatively easy method which people believe produces instant results. This is why many fanatic groups are prone to use it as a means to achieve their aims. Sadly every religion or group or sympathizers of their own group try to justify all atrocities or mistakes committed by that group and we see this trend everywhere. No one is willing to admit their own mistakes but at the same time they never fail to point out other's mistakes. I don't know if we are going to learn any lessons from all these incidents, I don't think anyone is in mood of reflecting on what might have gone wrong. Whole emphasis is on taking revenge and beefing up security but we all know that this is not a permanent solution. Security and defense are very important things, there is no doubt about that but at the same time talks and negotiations to bring peace in conflict affected regions is also necessary. After each and every tragic incident like this I always remember this line, "an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind". I guess we all know this quote but very few of us understand the real meaning behind it and until we all understand this we can only hope that something doesn't hit our own eye.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Monday, November 23, 2015

Why so much anger against Wall Street?

While listening to recent Democratic party presidential candidate debate I noticed that candidates were really trying hard to distance themselves from Wall Street and project it as some sort of very dangerous or evil entity which needs to be destroyed or at least controlled using lot of extra rules and regulations. I am not expert on finance and trade related laws and regulations but I think I understand the political aspects of targeting Wall street. More socialist leaning candidates were more revengeful towards Wall street organizations, so out of three candidates on dais obviously Mr. Bernie Sanders was the one who was at the forefront to criticize the symbol of financial might of US. I wonder what is the reason for so much anger which almost sounds like hatred towards Wall Street (abbreviated as WS henceforth in post)? Why some of these candidates feel so much obliged to criticize WS to please their supporters? I am sure all of them have some investment or links which are part of WS business and they all earn part of their income from those investments but then why they try to focus only on negative aspects of WS without even acknowledging that there are many good things happened because of presence of free market?

WS is result of free market system, it is supposed to be a place to trade and raise capital for your business. No doubt that so many scams or bad things have happened in past. Many people as well as organizations tried to misuse some loopholes of existing system which resulted in economic crises. Economic disaster of 2008 is still fresh in our memories and whenever share market starts dipping down sharply many of us who don't understand it very well worry if another 2008 is about to happen or what? So there is no doubt that there are some concerns and apprehensions about the manure in which WS operates but isn't this true with any system with so much power associated with it? That power can be financial, political or military, we all look with doubt at all powerful entities. Even democratically elected President is not spared if he doesn't belong to political party which we support, so we all have that bias towards rich and powerful and let's acknowledge it. But this doesn't mean we should paint totally wrong picture of that person by totally neglecting any good things achieved by him or her. I don't think there is any doubt that economic prosperity is one of the major reasons why people get attracted to US and want to emigrate here. Free market system where people feel that they will be successful entirely based on their talent and capabilities attract many talented people from all over the world to this amazing country. I am not saying that there are no problems in this system and discrimination doesn't exist but by and large system works well to do justice to its people. WS is a important part of this system, people built organizations or companies, they try to make them big, wealth is created and then distributed. Many people are direct or indirect beneficiaries of this system. May be it is not distributed as evenly as many of us want but at least it is created and the truth is that currently there is no better alternative which seems to be as reliable as this. Many of the objections raised by these people who seem to be fierce opponents of WS about unequal distribution of wealth and rising economic disparity are true and valid but some of the solutions offered by them are equally horrible and unpractical. It seems they are intended to destroy this working system with some glitches without even having an alternative which can be at least as good as previous system. It is very easy to criticize but then at least provide some viable alternative to present system. There are no examples of successful countries or societies based on any single ideology, let it be capitalism, socialism, communism or any other 'ism'. What works best is always a mixture of good things from each and every ideology based on requirements of that particular society. So why are we so eager to draw so rigid lines and reject something because it belongs to some other 'ism' which we don't support? Why to call socialism evil or capitalism evil when both of them have some good aspects and some not that good? Why not to take best ideas from all ideologies which suit our society and make something which is good for most people of our society?

I always wonder how long this fight between different ideologies will continue? Why can't be there interdisciplinary collaboration between all these ideologies like scientists do between different disciplines of science? Is it so difficult or humiliating to accept that there can be some bad or outdated elements in socialism, communism or capitalism? Is is so difficult to understand that communism in its original form doesn't sound very practical idea in today's aspirational world? None of these ideas are completely right or wrong, only thing is that some parts of them are no more relevant today or some parts are not practically implementable or some parts are not acceptable in democratic society with freedom to choose and express. Is it so difficult to accept it? May be it is for some people but we need to acknowledge these things and move on, if we become adamant on accepting or rejecting it completely then we will never solve this deadlock and keep on arguing endlessly who is right and who is wrong. Please don't hesitate to highlight any drawbacks associated with any system and  capitalism or WS is not an exception to this. Project loopholes in law, highlight its misuse, question monitory policies based on data and logic not based on populism and appeasement. The way it is done now sounds like hatred and anger directed towards rich and powerful, this attitude is only going to create social divide and nothing else. May be it will help to win some elections but definitely it definitely won't help to solve the real problem. So it will be better if we use this anger to offer constructive criticism not to vilify any entity, please give this approach a chance and see if it produces better results or not.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Please don't play victim's card during fight against racism, it won't help.

I read few news items about protest by some students against some alleged racism related incidents on campuses of reputed american universities like Yale University and University of Missouri. No matter how much we criticize racism, casteism or any discriminatory traditions the truth is that they still exist in some form of other. Another ugly truth is that there are many people who still believe in some of these discriminatory practices, so we need to argue with them, discuss with them, debate with them and try to change their opinion by dialogue and discussions. This is the only way, we already have enough laws and regulations to check these things so even after all this if this doesn't stop then we need to continue dialogue and discussions. People living in societies or countries where real freedom of expression is allowed and practiced understand that everyone of us no matter how stupid or outrageous we sound have right to express our opinion. Only exception is that no one should be allowed to preach violence of any type but apart from that in most of these societies anyone is free to express their opinion. United States is one such amazing country, I don't think there is as much as freedom of expression practiced anywhere in world as it is done in USA. So I was really surprised when this group of students at Yale demanded to ban some Halloween costume party or demanded resignation of some administrators for defending right of some students to express themselves. Now one can disagree with someone's opinions or views, one can even feel offended by someone's costume of statement but in a free or democratic society how can one object to that person's right to say or wear those things? As those students who say or wear something with offensive message are free to express their opinions other students are also free to raise their objections and protest if they are feeling hurt. Both are using freedom of expression right so how one group can object to the right of other group? Another question is, is it right to use that feeling of being offended to justify banning something? Is this the right approach to solve this issue? Can this help us to curb the discrimination without taking away fundamental right of freedom of expression? What if some other group tomorrow come up with something which hurt their sentiments and demand to ban something, are these students going to support that demand? There are many issues and questions like these, the battle against racism or any type of discrimination is going on for decades, it is a long ongoing battle but loosing patience  and playing victim's card is not going to serve any purpose.

We can definitely raise our voice against any form of offensive messages but asking to ban them just because they are offensive or hurt someone's emotions is totally outrageous. It can open another Pandora's box where any group can come up with their demand to ban something because it hurt their sentiments. Suppose if tomorrow Hindu's ask to ban sale and consumption of beef because it hurts their deep religious sentiments and also claim that cow slaughter is very offensive to them, are these students going to support their demand of beef ban? This is just one simple example to demonstrate that mere claim of hurt sentiments can not be the valid reason to put forward such a serious demand to ban something. Racism is a result of ignorance, wrong teachings and lack of social awareness. Most discriminatory practices are deep rooted in some cultural or historical traditions which are passed from one generation to other, many of them are outdated and even illegal but somehow that mindset still exists among some people. Some people still believe in superiority or inferiority of races and this can manifest in their behavior in so many ways. But in any free society these people also have right to express their opinion. We need to challenge this behavior and debate these issues, to allow our anger take over our logical sense is not good. Intolerance doesn't solve any problems rather it can create few more of them which can be more serious than the original one. Freedom of expression is very important right we all have and we should not try to take it away from anyone, not even from our fierce opponents. Freedom of speech should come with freedom to offend, so only option we have is to increase our tolerance and question things but please don't try to silence people just because it hurts your sentiments. I hope students who want to fight against discrimination doesn't become reason for some type of discrimination where some people are targeted or punished for expressing their opinion (whatever that opinion is doesn't matter as long as it is not inciting violence). I wish all the strength, patience and courage to these students who are fighting against discrimination because they will need these things. Playing victim's card is of no use, it can only generate some media attention and temporary sympathy but won't help the cause in long run. This disease of racism or casteism or any other discrimination is very old and serious, generations are affected by this problem and fighting against these things is not that easy. Sentiments will be hurt, offensive language or images will be used by opponents to hurt feelings but this is part of any struggle, so anyone who want to fight for any cause should learn to deal with these things. I hope these students focus on real cause and struggle to achieve it rather than getting involved in trivial things such as demand of ban something which is a direct assault on freedom of expression.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. At University of Missouri, Black Students See a Campus Riven by Race
2. Massive Yale student rally makes call for inclusiveness on New Haven campus

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It is wrong to paint all pharma companies with the same brush.

Drug discovery is a very high risk and expensive business, according to recent data it takes more than 1 billion USD  and almost 12 to 13 years to launch new, successful drug in the market. One can debate and discuss various scientific factors related with this statistics and one can even question why this process is so low yielding and inefficient but people who work in this area know that it is not that easy to point out to any single factor for this scenario. It is also true that we need new drugs to stay ahead of our contiguous battle with many bugs and deadly diseases like cancer. Industry and academia are equally engaged in research aspect of drug discovery, many initial leads come from academia on which many times small biotech firms are formed which then go on to develop some novel drugs in that therapeutic area. Even though industry and academia are both equally involved in basic research aspect of drug discovery the development part of drug is exclusively with industry. One of the main reason is that it is very expensive and tedious process with very high failure rate. So what is point behind mentioning all these things? The point is question of 'drug pricing', an ever debated and very controversial topic all over the world. I think everyone will agree that people should be able to access life saving drugs if they need it, but the question is who will pay if they can't afford it? If we look at the pricing of some of the new drugs in developed countries, specially in USA then one can easily understand what I am talking about. For example, price of Gilead's new Hepatitis-C drug Sovaldi is 84000$ for a 12 week course, almost 1000$ per pill. No doubt it is a expensive drug by any standards but it is also very effective and lifesaving drug which has changed the treatment regime for that disease remarkably. This drug is just a one example to show how effective and expensive some of these medicines are. Drug development is a business after all and like any other business this industry also tries to balance its risks with profits. There are share holders and stock market and each pharma company has to make sure that they stay ahead in game by making as much profit to its share holders as they can.

It is always debated what can be a optimal pricing for any life saving drug? Who can decide how much a drug company should or can charge for their new drug? How expensive is too expensive? How about third world countries where most people can not pay for such expensive drugs but need them as much as people from any developed country? There are many questions like this but hardly any satisfactory answers. In US there is very good drug discovery culture and basically they subsidize drug discovery for rest of the world. In most of the developing countries like India drug discovery is considered as waste of money and there is no proper mechanism to encourage it at policy level. So basically whole world is dependent on few handful countries for development for new drugs for any therapeutic area. Hopefully slowly this scenario might change but currently only developed countries are expected to carry the financial burden of developing new drugs. As I said pharma sector is also a business and like all other businesses it also needs investments and has to generate enough profits. So all other factors which play major role in any other commercial industry also play part in this industry also. Whatever is not financially attractive is not pursues no matter how important it might be, recent exit of most of major pharma companies from antibiotic sector is one very good example of this. It is very expensive to develop new drugs, and above that it is very risky only 1 in 10 drugs that enter in clinical phase get FDA approval. So someone has to pay for all those failures, industry has to recover all the money lost during development of other drugs who failed for some reason from that one successful drug. This is one of the major reasons why some of the drugs are so expensive. Actually this is not an attempt to justify high pricing of all the drugs but just an effort to explain the things so that people know the other side of the coin also.

I am sure everyone will agree that the best possible scenario will be to have affordable drugs for all major illnesses available all over the world. They should be accessible to every patient who needs them, irrespective of their nationality or financial status, but we all know that this feat is not possible to achieve in near future. With increased life expectancy all over the world we are going to see many more people who will need some sort of medicine to maintain their health. There are no easy solutions for this very complicated problem, but may be if we try to understand cause of this problem then we can understand the position of pharma industry little better. It is wrong to paint all of them as villains and accuse them of being insensitive and selfish money mongers. Drug discovery is a business so like all other businesses it needs to be profitable, it needs to be very competitive to attract talented and hard working people so that innovative ideas keep on coming. This business also needs to adjust and survive different pressures and trends of market based economy. Society, government and all companies need to devise some formula which can make medicines more affordable for everyone. Pharma industry is just one part of this complicated puzzle of drug pricing. At the same time any sort of criticism should be welcomed from industry insiders as it will make them correct some of their mistakes but it is unfair just to blame them or target them every time, definitely it is wrong to look at only one side of problem and draw final conclusions. Please try to study every angle of any issue before coming out with any final conclusion. I am sure it can be possible to keep on inventing new drugs and make them affordable also, we just need proper system and desire to achieve this.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Intolerance was always there in India.

Now a days there is a lot of debate going on in India about intolerance and tolerance. Some people are claiming that since this new government came in power (in 2014) incidents of intolerance are increasing, they also claim that there is feeling of fear and insecurity among minorities and some intellectuals. Other side is claiming that nothing this sort is happening, rather the very fact that these people are allowed to protest is sign of very tolerant and cohesive environment, some irrelevant fringe groups are mainly responsible for whatever ugly incidents are reported but overall everything is fine. Both sides are busy in attacking each other and proving each other wrong, what a splendid display of tolerance. Another point which is highlighted again and again during all these discussions is that India was and still is a very tolerant society. I really don't know what is the real basis of this claim but surprisingly both sides agree to this particular point, the only point of disagreement is whether it is becoming intolerant now or not? History of Indian civilization is very old and one can go and try to understand whether it was a historically a tolerant society or not. I am not interested in that aspect of this argument, I can only talk about what I saw and experienced personally during my life in India. As far as my personal experience is concerned I never saw very tolerant atmosphere during 30 years of my life in India. I always feel surprised when someone claims that India is a very tolerant society, may they have some different definition of 'tolerant' but at least I never experienced it. Now before people jump on to attack me personally and label me as anti-India or anti-Hindu or traitor or whatever other name they want to use to display their tolerant nature let me first explain why I say this.

Any tolerant society is sensitive to the needs and rights of all sections of society and by all sections I am not talking about all religions, castes, etc. which dominate Indian political discussion forums. I am talking about kids, teenagers, men, women, disabled people, majority, all types of minorities, etc. I never saw that sensitivity in appreciable levels and still don't see it, till recently transgenders were forced to live in closet, women are still struggling to get equal status and share, caste is very important factor in marriage and politics, one can list many factors here but I guess readers mush have got my point. Now let me continue with my personal experiences as I base my statement mainly based on my personal experience. As a kid punishments for mistakes in school were very brutal and physically abusive. I am sure any one who went to school in 1980s and 1990s can confirm this point. Getting slapped by teacher was not a big deal, getting hit by stick, duster, ruler was very common phenomena. Even outside the school situation was not much different, it was considered as birthright of parents to smack their kids as much they want and for whatever reason they feel appropriate. As a kid it was normal to get snubbed by elders for asking any uncomfortable question. Any sort of dissent was not encouraged from weaker sections and I don't think this is a sign of any tolerant society. One could not dare to question many traditions and rituals without being getting verbally or worst physically reprimanded. Obedience was considered as a virtue and dissent was openly ridiculed. So these were some of the things which I experienced or witnessed as a kid. I am sure there might be exceptions to this and there might be some people specially with very privileged background who lived in totally different social atmosphere but whatever I described above was in general environment around me and many others. People must have realized that I am talking about poor or lower middle class section of society which constituted very large section of Indian population back then and I think it is still significant in numbers. Even as a teenagers we knew that friendship and all is OK but we can't marry outside our caste without disturbing our parents or other members of family. Tension between various religions and occasional violent communal riots are still a possibility, all these things used to make me wonder where is that tolerance about which I hear on every intellectual forum? Fights between supporters of different political parties were very common, there used to be fights during processions during different religious festivals like Ganeshotsav and that too many times between two mandals on trivial issues like who should get to go first in line. It was and still is very trivial to Call someone anti national or traitor or Pakistani (this word is used as abuse specially for anyone who is a Muslim or says anything in support of them). Books are frequently banned, movies land in trouble for hurting some group's sentiments, paintings and painters are troubled for creating some objectionable art, authors are attacked for writing something offensive or derogatory to someone, moral policing was very common and still happens to some extend even today. Many of these things are still part of public behavior, we can see these things even in social media and still we Indians don't hesitate to call ourselves very tolerant!

But there must be some reason why most Indians claim that our country is very tolerant. One reason might be India did not invade any country in recent history or may be by claiming to be tolerant many of these people mean 'less violent' compared to some neighboring countries. It is quite possible that 'tolerant' means at least we don't kill each other as frequently as some other societies do. May be there is some truth in this line of argument even though frequent incidents of communal riots don't support this claim very well but this might be the major reason for making this claim. But for me this is not good enough to declare any society as a tolerant society and anyways those standards of those countries are not worth to follow for a country like India if it really aspires to become a super power with such a diverse population. It needs to show more inclusive behavior than merely being less violent or better than some of our neighbors. Intolerance was always there in India, sometimes it is more visible than other time that's the only difference. So I really feel strange about this debate of India becoming intolerant now, please at least let me know when was it very tolerant? If anyone is willing to explain it to me then I am willing to listen and please restrict time span to last 40-50 years not more than that. I can definitely talk about last 30 years or so based on my personal experience and I hope others also share with me their own experience not some theoretical rhetoric with no proof or logic.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Women are made, not born.

Title of this blog post is a famous quote by French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir on womanhood. I don't know in what context he said it but when I heard it I immediately thought, wow he described it so correctly. For me this quote means, we as a society condition minds of people in believing what men and women should do, how they should behave and what are their roles in society or family. So no gender is supposed to do only certain type of things or behave in certain way, we define it and it is human creation. This quote is actually equally applicable to men, all genders are told what it is supposed to be a man or woman or a transgender and then we all try to fit into one of these roles. In modern world many people are trying to challenge these definitions and break the traditional mold but still it is not that easy. The definitions or characteristics assigned to different genders are so stereotyped that people involuntarily follow them. Men without even knowing subscribe to traditional notions of masculinity, they come under tremendous pressure to perform and succeed like men. Similarly women are forced to follow certain path, their minds are conditioned to teach them what they can do and what they can't. Once this task is successfully achieved then it is easy for patriarchal society to claim what men can do and what women can do. They create ample examples to support this hypothesis and most people agree to these things as they see many examples fitting into these notions. That is why such quotes are important, they tell us inherent flaw associated with such classification. Such quotes and thoughts force us to think and ask some questions and one of the questions should be, whatever we see around or believe is natural or manufactured by centuries of tradition and suppression of certain gender?

Our sex is determined by our DNA and now we very well understand the science behind it and also understand process of fertilization. But once we are born and start our journey in this world society and people around us start conditioning our mind. Many traditions, rituals, cultural or religion beliefs start shaping our mind in particular way. We are told about our gender and also how our gender should behave. We are also told about responsibilities and limitations of our gender roles, what boys should like and what girls are supposed to like. Most of these things slowly become part of our personality, they get embedded in our psyche. Rarely we think about questioning these things. Many of us don't ask, why only women cook in family? Why only men have to go and work outside? Why it is considered as responsibility of man to be a breadwinner of family? Why polygamy is more accepted in some societies but not polyandry? Why only women change their last names after marriage? Why there is no third gender? Now a days these type of questions are being asked and many people are trying to change the things and make things more gender neutral, but one can easily feel that society is not yet very receptive and accommodative about many of these ideas. There is still reluctance to break traditional stereotyped definition of men and women.

Many people including many women still believe that women are incapable of doing certain things but no one is willing to understand why? Is is because they are women or because for centuries they were told that they can't do these things and now suddenly we expect them to match men on every level or go back to their traditional role. Off course they will master these things one day but definitely it will take some time. Men didn't become powerful sex in one day, they got preferred treatment and favorable social atmosphere for centuries to become so called 'stronger sex'. Actually many women have already proven that they can take up any challenge thrown at them but still many of them are way far behind as they are forced to live in that age old stereotyped role but slowly they are also becoming aware of their rights and capabilities. As this awareness will spread across the world we will see more and more women entering in main stream and taking up responsible roles. If society and people around them don't try to suppress their potential then I am sure in years to come we can use this same quote in positive way, until then let's try to create an environment where everyone gets an equal opportunity irrespective of their gender.  

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

We all are transgenders in someway.

While watching this program on NDTV about situation of transgenders in Indian society, I was wondering what is the reason these people are so stereotyped that they can't live normal life in most of societies around the world. By normal life I mean get same treatment and opportunities which most of us so called 'normal' or 'fixed gender' type people get. In India most of them are forced in certain trade or live in ghettos because of the way society treats them. Why it is so difficult for any society to accept them as equal citizens or for that matter why we are so apprehensive about anything which doesn't fit to the age old definition of "normal"? Who decides what is normal and what is not? Is most common means normal and something which is uncommon becomes abnormal? We need to ask many such questions to counter this narrative which is going on uninterrupted for centuries. It is really sad to see that some people among us get discriminated for something which is quite natural. They face various difficulties and problems not because of their mistakes or actions but just because who they are. The attitude 'oh they are different than us or they are nor normal, so they can't be with us or our kids will become like them' needs to be questioned, everyone needs to get fair chance to fulfill their ambitions and desires, as a society it is our responsibility to create such environment. Most of us agree to this statement but then it seems as a society our behavior doesn't match with this statement.

Sex is determined by DNA and gender is something how we present ourselves in society, it is not necessary for both to match. We are taught and conditioned how men or women should behave or conduct themselves in society. We are taught what is masculine and what is feminine, based on this conditioning we develop our own perception about our own gender and also try to define other's gender. This perception and stereotyping also decides what we call normal and what we consider as abnormal. We are also trained to reject or denounce or stay away from these so called abnormal people. Most of us follow all these traditions or rules without even giving any serious thoughts or considerations. Many of us fail to question many of these definitions which are passed on to us by our society. We follow them as part of tradition or culture, we never bother to check their relevance or validity. Once anything whether it is good or bad becomes a part of tradition or culture stays there for long time. Many societies also develop some protective attitude towards such traditions as they consider it as a integral part of their identity. This is one of the main reason why many people hesitate to question these things openly. I agree that it is not easy to challenge or fight against long practicing traditions or rituals but if they are wrong someone needs to do this. But the problem is that there is not very conducive environment in most societies which can encourage questioning or dissent, rather few who dare to question have to face many hostile reactions. Transgenders are victims of such wrong traditions and misconceptions. According to me we all are transgenders in some way or other. We all possess unique set of qualities, there is no defined set of masculine and feminine qualities which are exclusive to any one particular sex. Variety of feelings or characteristics can be found in both sexes. We all are sensitive, tough, stupid or intelligent, fearless or cowardice, strong or weak, introvert or extrovert our gender doesn't define these things. We all are capable of displaying feelings of tenderness, vulnerability, fear, jealousy, envy to different extent on different occasions. So technically we all can call ourselves as transgenders as we display all these feelings which are normally classified as masculine or feminine qualities. We just don't fit into that stereotyped definition of 'transgender' which people have created by combining some emotional and physical characteristics. But just because some people show physical or emotional characteristics of both sexes more than others we should not label them as abnormal. These people are as normal as any of us, just may be not as common as many of us. They are in minority but that doesn't mean they don't deserve equal rights and recognition. We need to remove this prejudice and bias, we all need to recognize our own transgenderness to acknowledge that there is nothing wrong or abnormal in it. Most common doesn't necessarily mean normal and uncommon doesn't always mean abnormal. Let's remove these barriers and become more inclusive society where every individual is accepted regardless of their gender or sex. Let's start from ourselves, let's embrace and understand our fellow humans irrespective of their gender, sex, religion, race or any other thing which we use to categorize. Let's show love and respect towards each other, after all we all are humans. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]